Frommer’s Japan Guide – Book Review

Frommer's Japan Guide

Photo by: Stuck in Customs on Flickr

I’ve always been a fan of guide books. Before a trip I tend to devour a guide book cover-to-cover multiple times. I figure if I don’t, I’ll miss some super important site or event and my trip will be a complete waste.

Of course, basing your entire trip on guide book recommendations is not a great way to travel, either. So today we’re going to look at Frommer’s guide book to Japan to see what it has to offer the Japan traveler.

The Truth About Guide Books

Guide books

Photo by: Let Ideas Compete on Flickr

It seems like to the making of guide books there is no end. Every year all the major guide book players will come out with their new edition to all the hot travel destinations.

But how new are these latest editions?

I decided to do an experiment with a few common guide books and order several years worth of editions from my local library. And surprise, surprise, not a whole lot changes between editions.

Other than the occasional price update, many years can pass between rewrites. In fact, my 2004 Frommer’s Japan guide book is pretty much completely identical to the 2010 edition. That’s six years without a new restaurant or hotel recommendation!

That’s good to know if you’re thinking you need to update your guides for every trip.

Frommer’s Japan

I’ve been through my share of guide books, but it seems like I always come back to Frommers.

Frommer’s guide books are packed with information, so much so that people may be turned off when they notice that their guides contain almost entirely no photographs. In fact, other than a few maps and the front cover photograph, Frommer’s Japan has no other pictures.

For many, that may be a disappointment, but I actually prefer it. I guess I figure if I look at large glossy photos of places I want to visit, it won’t have as much an impact when I actually see it with my own eyes. Silly, I know.

So where Frommer’s Japan shines is that it contains wall-to-wall information covering all the main tourist hot spots throughout Japan. The guide doesn’t waste a single page on anything other than making your travel experiences more enjoyable.

What’s Inside

Frommer’s Japan is 662 pages long and contains a lot of helpful sections including:

  • The Best of Japan – A quick rundown of all the places and activities that are considered the top things to do in Japan. The best parks, castles, hot springs, and activities are listed here.
  • Detailed Destinations – The guide covers all the major tourist destinations from Tokyo to Hokkaido. It stays pretty close to the typical beaten path of the average traveler and doesn’t stray off to some of the less known destinations like some other guide books.
  • Japan Facts – Japan has a deep history of etiquette that may be unknown to the average traveler. While much leeway is given to visitors, it still helps to know proper social procedure so that we don’t embarrass ourselves too badly.
  • Common Phrases – While this won’t replace a good phrase book, Frommer’s Japan does give you a few basic phrases and words to help you get around Japan. If nothing else, you may as well learn how to say thank you and excuse me. It will definitely come in handy.
  • Location Maps – While there are not a lot of detailed maps, what is there should get you familiar with the lay of the land. I always recommend picking up local maps from a tourist information centers wherever you visit. These are usually easier to follow and much easier to use and transport than a heavy guide book.
  • Suggested Itineraries – Whether you have only a week to explore Japan or longer, the guide will give you suggestions on how to travel to the best spots in the most convenient ways possible.


If you’re looking for a guide book that is heavy with information, then you can’t go wrong with Frommer’s Japan. However, if you’re looking for something off the beaten path, you probably won’t find it here.

The guide does a wonderful job of highlighting the areas and sites that you don’t want to miss, but just like every guide, you’ll want to leave some room for setting out on your own and discovering Japan for yourself.

The most recent edition (2010) currently costs $17.15 and is available on our Amazon Store.

One Response to “Frommer’s Japan Guide – Book Review”

  1. Tweets that mention Frommer’s Japan Guide – Book Review | i heart japan - Travel tips and info about Japan --  on January 21st, 2011

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